2014 Home Video Releases: The Top 25

Posted in 2014 Home Video Releases: The Best with tags , on January 19, 2015 by Last Road Reviews

2014 Video Releases: The Top 25

So this list is a bit late, but I wanted to get it as close to 100%. As mentioned in my bottom of 2014 all these films I pay for myself. No screeners and its difficult to keep up with all the 2014 releases as well as other releases. I did my best to place them in order, but I can move some around. It also took me longer on trying to decide the final cut and while some titles must be left off I think these 25 releases best represent 2014.

All titles listed are blu-ray unless otherwise noted and in the case of combo packs its the blu-ray I’m basing my selections off and not the DVDs.

25. Motel Hell- Scream Factory (blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Another solid release from Scream Factory. Audio and video are fine and some good interviews.

24. Ms. 45- Alamo Drafthouse
This was a solid release with a strong HD transfer. This cult classic has been out of print for a while and its great to have it back in circulation uncut and in HD and it also comes with a reversible cover and a booklet.

23. Frightmare- Redemption
Previously released on DVD by Media-Blasters this new blu-ray blows the DVD away. Some solid features, but it’s the audio and in particular the video that makes this a winner. Quietly, Redemption is becoming one of the if not the best label for cult cinema.

22. The First Power- Kino Lorber
Another film from the partnership between Kino Lorber and Scorpion Releasing. The audio and video are quite strong and a major step up over the old DVD. There are two interviews here: one with Lou Diamond Phillips and the other Jeff Kober we also get a trailer and reversible cover.

21. Curtains- Synapse
Like Prom Night, this film had a couple of poor DVD releases that were way too dark. While I found the movie ok, but the release was excellent with some solid extras and a stunning HD video presentation. Synapse along with Vinegar Syndrome are the best when it comes to the HD videos.

20. Graduation Day- Vinegar Syndrome (blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Another stunner from Vinegar Syndrome in terms of HD video. This also comes with some decent releases, but its all about that great HD transfer.

19. The Toxic Avenger- Troma (blu-ray/DVD Combo)
This carries over mostly features from the DVD with a couple of new ones, but the HD video presentation is quite outstanding. That’s the reason this release makes the list.

18. Ginger Snaps- Scream Factory (blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Past DVDs were quite shoddy with the Canadian DVD being the best but the video was average. This release carries over past features with some new ones and finally we get video quality. It isn’t demo worthy, but with a good transfer and nice features this is a solid release.

17. Leprechaun: The Complete Collection- Lionsgate
Surprisingly solid set and oddly enough Lionsgate gives the Leprechaun series a better release than the Saw films! 7 films are spread out over 4-discs (Leprechaun: Origins has its own disc). Quality on the films are fair enough as is the audio. There are some nice batch of extras including the Leprechaun Chronicles, which is a 6-part documentary.

16. Witchboard- Scream Factory (blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Excellent audio and video with a nice batch of extras. Obviously not every title can get the works, but when Scream Factory does go all out you’ll be hard pressed to find a better company.

15. Hell of the Living Dead/Rats- Blue Underground
These two schlock films very much benefit from the HD upgrade and there’s also a very good documentary. Its good to see Blue-Underground active again.

14. Christmas Evil- Vinegar Syndrome (blu-ray/DVD Combo)
This release carries over the extras from the Synapse and Troma releases and with a brand new 4k transfer and results are stunning. When it comes quality Vinegar Syndrome just might be the best.

13. Pumpkinhead- Scream Factory
Strong audio and video with some solid extras including an hour documentary. This deserves a higher place on the list, but 2014 such a solid year great releases miss the top 10.

12. Halloween: The Complete Collection- Anchor Bay/Scream Factory
I can see it now with this release topping most people’s best list. I however can’t do that as this is in some ways a cash grab by Anchor Bay and Scream Factory, but in other areas it excels. Halloween 2-5 are the exact editions released in the past by AB & SF. The original has 2 blu-rays. The first being identical to the 2007 version. The other being the 35th Anniversary, which is nearly identical as it adds a mono sound mix and a new commentary. H20 is presented in its correct aspect ratio with a new batch of new features and carries over the onset making of from the old DVD, however the quality is nearly identical at times to the Echo Bridge with a slight upgrade as is Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, which is presented in 1080p whereas the Echo Bridge was 1080i. The only other differences is trailers and TV spots added. Resurrection is identical to the Echo Bridge version and the two Rob Zombie films are the directors cut and are identical to earlier releases. The reason to buy this and why I did is for the first official release for the Producers Cut of Halloween 6 with a brand new HD transfer and a whole slew of extras and had the Producer’s Cut been released solo it might have taking my top spot and it also has a terrific transfer. There’s also a bonus disc with mostly extras from past releases, but with some new new things added such as a documentary on the making of Halloween 4 & 5 and a look at the locations of Halloween 4-6 with Sean Clark’s Horror’s Hallowed Grounds. Of all the collections released of horror franchises this set is by far the best despite some issues. Each film has its own case with the original Halloween packaged together as are the theatrical and TV cut of Halloween 2 (1981), the theatrical and Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6 are packaged together as are Zombie’s Halloween 2 and the bonus disc. All cases come with the original artwork and we even get a booklet. When released the price was $109 and had it been cheaper I would have rated it higher. Most of the discs are the same and if you have those releases you’ll have most of the extras, but the new material added and the Producers Cut elevates this release. It’s difficult to fully recommend the set if you have the prior releases, but I’m actually quite happy with my purchase. However there are a couple of things missing such as the Halloween 4/5 panel that was an extra on the original Halloween 4 blu-ray release. Also missing are the theatrical cuts of both of Zombie’s Halloween films (I prefer the directors cut of both, but without them it’s not quite the complete collection). The set isn’t perfect and again a good portion of the extras are carried over, but despite any issues I’m again glad I picked this up. And sure Anchor Bay & Scream Factory could have done a bit more, but its still a very cool set.

11. Billy Bagg Double Feature: The Adult Films of William Lustig- Distibpix (DVD)
Before Maniac, William Lustig under the name Billy Bagg made two adult films. Believe it or not this is one heck of a release. There’s audio commentaries and even a podcast interview. The Violation of Claudia is the best of the two in audio, video and the actual movie. The 2nd Hot Honey looks good, but far more flaws in the audio and video. Very strong releases and both films fun.

10. La Bamba- Twilight Time
Believe it or not this is my favorite film of all time. The blu-ray from Twilight Time is a limited edition. Extras are two audio commentary tracks and a trailer (both carried over from the DVD). Despite the lack of extras this is still a great release as the audio is solid and the video is downright stunning. The HD quality is always excellent, but certain scenes its just draw dropping beautiful.

9. Vincent Price Collection II
Last year the first collection took my top spot. This collection is also quite terrific with a nice batch of extras with some new and others from previous DVD releases. The video quality while strong, but like the first set could have used more work. As excellent as this release was this year I couldn’t rank it as the top, but it easily one of the best of 2014.

8. Texas Chainsaw Massacre- Dark Sky
The first blu-ray was excellent, but this by far trumps it in audio and video. I put heavy consideration into rating this higher as its a terrific edition.

7. L.A. Law Season 1- Shout Factory (DVD)
Never released in the United States before the first season comes 28-years after its debut. L.A. Law is the most influential attorney show and while certain aspects are obviously dated the good portion of the cases remain relevant. Surprisingly enough there’s also some special features. The only flaw is the video is a slight notch above VHS as very little work was put into it, its a disappointment, but easy to look past since for us fans we finally got a release. It was common in the 80s for shows to be shot on video and shows such as this on film, but transferred to tape. Some of the flaws with the picture on VHS flaws. The UK releases also use the tapes, but more work was put into cleaning them up. Basically L.A. Law looks like it would when airing in syndication. Despite the letdown on the video its still a great release and I’m ecstatic to have it on DVD.

6. Hill Street Blues: The Complete Series- Shout Factory (DVD)
Fox released the first 2 seasons several years ago than stopped. This release has all 7 seasons with each season in its own case spread out on 33 discs plus a 34 disc with a few extras and we also get a booklet. Audio is alright, but the video is much stronger than expected. Its as good as DVD will allow (for the most part). While lost on the modern viewer HSB changed the landscape of TV dramas as there was nothing like this before. Overall this was a great release and its great having the entire series.

5. Prom Night- Synapse
Past releases were quite poor to where it was impossible to make things out to the video even looking like a video. The audio on this edition is terrific, but the HD video is stunning and its like seeing Prom Night for the very first time.

4. To All a Goodnight- Kino Lorber
I really never thought I’d see this released on blu-ray (or even DVD). Long out of print the VHS was super dark and difficult to make anything out. The blu-ray comes from a partnership between Kino Lorber & Scorpion Releasing is terrific. The HD presentation looks wonderful and its no longer dark and murky and the audio is strong as well. Plus we get interviews with two of the actors and one with the writer and even a trailer!

3. Sleepaway Camp- Scream Factory (blu-ray/DVD Combo)
While the features are very strong the major upgrade in audio and video makes this a must buy. When compared to the Anchor Bay DVD this release is a revelation.

2. Night of the Demons- Scream Factory (blu-ray/DVD Combo)
This was a terrific release and one of the best releases from Scream Factory. The HD transfer is terrific and the audio quite strong. It’s jam packed with extras including a documentary that runs at around 45-minutes.

1. Ghostbusters Double Feature- Columbia
The original film was released twice before with the first drawing mixed reviews and the 2nd being a brand new 4k scan though without any features. This set the original film has the same 4k scan, but has features from past releases plus some new ones. The 4k scan is simply breathtakingly beautiful. The 2nd film for its 25th anniversary also gets the 4k treatment and is every bit as stunning. Both 4k transfers look so amazing it can almost be distracting. Both films look brand new. The 2nd film isn’t as packed with extras, but its still a great edition and to be honest both films look so amazing I wouldn’t even care if they didn’t include any features. The case is a digibook and included is a booklet attached to the inside of the case and a note from the director. My only complaint is even though each film has its own holder, but to get to the 2nd disc you have to take out the original as they’re on top of each other, but kept safe from getting scratches. Complaint a side with some excellent features plus 2 draw dropping 4k scans this is an amazing set. With my top 3 picks any could take the top spot, but I went with Ghostbusters because those 4k scans are amongst the best HD transfers for any film of any era.

2014 Home Video Releases: The Bottom

Posted in 2014 Home Video Releases: The Bottom with tags on January 14, 2015 by Last Road Reviews

2014 Bottom 10

This isn’t final as I could add more titles at a later time since its far too expensive to keep up with every single home video release. I’m not getting screeners all are paid from my own pocket.

And here are my picks for the worst of the year. Granted some could have been left off, but I have little patience for shoddy releases from major studios.

Most of these lists all come at the end of December, but I hold off simply because I wanna get the list to as close to 100% and get it detailed. This is simply about the video release so a film I love could make the bottom list whereas a film I dislike could make the top list since its quality of the release and not the actual film.

Here’s my list for the bottom of 2014 in home video. This list (or the ones to come) aren’t final. All the films listed plus the ones that didn’t list are again paid for out of my own pocket. So since I don’t get any screeners keeping up with all the 2014 releases and not to mention blu-ray and DVDs from other years it can be quite expensive and again paying for it myself it might take a while before I can get to everything. (I’ll repeat this text in the upcoming blogs).

The remainder of the 2014 lists will be coming next week. I just needed a little more time.

(All titles listed are blu-ray).

10. The Outsiders- Warner Brothers
Ok so this isn’t actually a bad edition, but why not include the original theatrical version? This is basically the same edition as the DVD only with improved quality, but why not make an upgrade truly worth it? This doesn’t truly deserve a spot here, but I just feel if blu-ray is the better format make it a worthwhile release.

9. Mr. Majestyk- Kino Lorber
Kino is a terrific company though extras can be lacking and this only has the trailer. The film itself decent, but a little more could have been done. On the plus side though audio and video are solid.

8. Death Wish- Warner Brothers
The case has a sticker on the plastic that makes a big deal over it being the 40th anniversary, but it isn’t much of an edition as the only feature is a trailer. While a letdown, the audio and video are a major step above the DVD and was quite better than I expected. But the fact this classic has no extras is just wrong. Originally I wasn’t gonna place it on the bottom list, but had no choice.

7. Kindergarten Cop- Universal
While audio and video are solid, but nothing amazing this release only has a trailer and there isn’t even a menu. I get not every film can get a 5-star treatment, but there really isn’t an excuse for such a subpar release when far lesser known films from independent companies get far better releases one would think Universal could have done a little more.

6. Weekend at Bernie’s- Fox
Decent audio and video and the only feature is a trailer. Fox was too lazy to even have a menu. Despite being a successful film I’m sure its not in high demand and I suppose a release like this was expected, but this is just a lazy effort.

5. Exorcist: The Complete Anthology- Warner Brothers
The original film is presented in both theatrical and directors cut on separate discs and is identical to the first blu-ray release. It’s an excellent edition so no complaints there really isn’t much more that could be done. The two sequels and prequels however are nearly identical to the DVDs and audio and video is a slight notch above the DVDs. One thing is clear WB put as little effort into these as possible and its nothing more than a cheap cash grab. While the sequels and prequels aren’t exactly held in high regard (3 gets a little bit of respect) but that doesn’t excuse such a poor release from a major studio no less.

4. People Under the Stairs- Universal
The audio and video are about average and not a whole lot of effort was put into this. It’s a minor upgrade over the DVD. There are no extras not even a trailer and there isn’t even a menu as the film just starts. I understand not every film can get a 5-star treatment, but Universal a major studio shouldn’t give such a subpar release.

3. Saw: The Complete Collection- Lionsgate
There are some pros and cons here; first we have 7 films spread out over 3-discs. However blu-ray can hold a lot of information so quality won’t take a dip. The case is a standard blu-ray case size, which makes things easier in terms of shelf room. However there are no extras, but the Saw films never were really jam packed. The reason I’m rating this on the bottom list is the audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital. While it doesn’t sound bad it isn’t HD quality audio like the single releases. I simply do not understand why Lionsgate would downgrade the audio from the single releases. The scariest thing is Lionsgate gave the Leprechaun series a far better release!

2. Silent Night, Deadly Night- Anchor Bay
This really pains me to place it here and I tried to avoid it, but I can’t. SNDN was released on DVD 3 times. The first being in 2003 in a double feature with Part 2, the 2nd release just the original and the 3rd release again in a double feature. All 3 releases had the same audio/video and extras and that be applied to the blu-ray. The transfer is identical to the DVD and is nothing more than an up converted DVD. The only new extra is a lame audio commentary. If you put your old DVD in your blu-ray player than well you have a copy identical to the actual blu-ray. Shame on Anchor Bay for simply giving us an up convert of an 11-year old master. Any upgrade is so minimal that I would only recommend this if you get it at bargain bin price. You don’t have to take my word for it just look at other reviews and screenshots. It’s pathetic what Anchor Bay gave us.

1. Tourist Trap- Full Moon Pictures
The audio and video isn’t better than a solid DVD release and worst of all there’s 5-minutes missing from the film spread out. It was over a decade between my first and 2nd viewing so I can’t comment on how this effects the film, but regardless with that and the subpar audio and video make this a skipper.

2014 Film Log

Posted in 2014 Film Log with tags on January 2, 2015 by Last Road Reviews

2014 Film Log

Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence- William Lustig- *** ½
Fascination- Jean Rollin- ****
Maniac Cop 2- William Lustig- *** ½
Night of the Hunted- Jean Rollin- ****
Sadomania- Jesùs Franco- ***
Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway- Kevin Tenney- *** ½
Ticks- Tony Randel- ** ½
Haunted Palace- Roger Corman- ****
Two Orphan Vampires- Jean Rollin- ****
The Comeback- Pete Walker- ****
Bare Behind Bars- Oswaldo de Oliveira- ***
Carrie- Kimberly Peirce- ** ½
The Iron Rose- Jean Rollin- *** ½
The Pit and the Pendulum- Roger Corman- ** ½
Nightmares Come at Night- Jesùs Franco- ***
Abominable Dr. Phibes- Robert Fuest- ****
House of Usher- Roger Corman- ****
Red Dawn- John Milius- **** ½
Women Behind Bars- Jesùs Franco- ** ½
Are You in the House Alone- Walter Grauman- *** ½
You’re Next- Adam Wingard- *** ½
Commando- Mark L. Lester- ****
Lips of Blood- Jean Rollin- ****
Tales of Terror- Roger Corman- **
Amazon Jail- Oswaldo de Oliveira- ***
Masque of the Red Death- Roger Corman- ****
99 Women- Jesùs Franco- ***
Initiation of Sarah- Robert Day- *** ½
Witchfinder General- Michael Reeves- **** ½
Women’s Prison Massacre- Bruno Mattei- ** ½
House of Long Shadows- Pete Walker- **
Jack the Ripper- Jesùs Franco- **
Death Wish- Michael Winner- ****
Night of the Demons- Kevin Tenney- *** ½
Witchboard- Kevin Tenney- *** ½
My Bloody Valentine- George Mihalka- ****
Friday the 13th Part II- Steve Miner- ****
Day of the Animals- William Girdler- *** ½
Dark Night of the Scarecrow- Frank De Felitta- ****
Night of the Demons 2- Brian Trenchard-Smith- *** ½
X-Ray (Hospital Massacre)- Boaz Davidson- *** ½
Friday the 13th- Sean Cunningham- ****
Deep Red- Dario Argento- ****
Zombi 2- Lucio Fulci- ****
Death Wish II- Michael Winner- ****
Friday the 13th Part 3- Steve Miner- ****
The Devil Bat- Jean Yarbrough- ****
Scream- Wes Craven- **** ½
Troll 2- Claudio Fragasso- ***
Scream 2- Wes Craven- ****
Death Wish 3- Michael Winner- ****
Scream 4- Wes Craven- ****
Terror Train- Roger Spottiswoode- *** ½
They Live- John Carpenter- ****
The Fog- John Carpenter- ****
Slugs: The Movie- Juan Piquer Simon- *** ½
Prom Night- Paul Lynch- *** ½
Phantasm II- Don Coscarelli- *** ½
The Big Doll House- Jack Hill- *** ½
Slumber Party Massacre- Amy Holden Jones- ****
Flesh and Blood Show- Pete Walker- ** ½
Frightmare- Pete Walker- ****
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane- Jonathan Levine- *** ½
Return to Nuke Em High- Lloyd Kaufman- ****
Ms. 45- Abel Ferrara- ****
Nightmare City- Umberto Lenzi- ***
Dirty Harry- Don Siegel- ****
Town That Dreaded Sundown- Charles Pierce- ****
Mother’s Day- Charles Kaufman- *** ½
I Spit on Your Grave- Meir Zarchi- *** ½
Detention of the Dead- Alex Craig Mann- ** ½
Zombieland- Ruben Fleischer- ****
A History of Violence- David Cronenberg- **** ½
Gremlins- Joe Dante- *** ½
New Year’s Evil- Emmett Alston- ***
Born in East L.A.- Cheech Marin- *** ½
Gremlins 2- Joe Dante- *** ½
Airheads- Michael Lehmann- ****
American History X- Tony Kaye- **** ½
Terminator- James Cameron- **** ½
Ninja III: The Domination- Sam Firstenberg- *** ½
Enter the Ninja- Menahem Golan- *** ½
Out for Justice- John Flynn- *** ½
The Mummy- Stephen Sommers- ****
Hard to Kill- Bruce Malmuth- ****
Breakin’- Joel Silberg- ***
Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach- Alan Myerson- *** ½
Police Academy- Hugh Wilson- ****
Captain America- Albert Pyun- ***
Police Academy: Mission to Moscow- Alan Metter- **
Marked for Death- Dwight H. Little- *** ½
Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment- Jerry Paris- ***
The Punisher- Mark Goldblatt- ***
Punisher: War Zone- Lexi Alexander- *** ½
Rapid Fire- Dwight H. Little- ****
Police Academy 3: Back to Training- Jerry Paris- *** ½
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol- Jim Drake- *** ½
The Punisher- Jonathan Hensleigh- *** ½
Police Academy 6: City Under Siege- Peter Bonerz- ***
Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo- Sam Firstenberg- ***
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace- Sidney J. Furie- ** ½
Supercop- Stanley Tong- ****
Final Exam- Jimmy Huston- *** ½
The Prowler- Joseph Zito- ****
Invasion U.S.A.- Joseph Zito- ***
Murphy’s Law- J. Lee Thompson- *** ½
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter- Joseph Zito- ****
10 to Midnight- J. Lee Thompson- *** ½
Tourist Trap- David Schmoeller- ***
Code of Silence- Andrew Davis- ***
Fist of Legend- Gordon Chan- ****
Appaloosa- Ed Harris- *** ½
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein- Charles Barton- ****
Sleepaway Camp- Robert Hiltzik- ***
Coffy- Jack Hill- ***
Robocop- Paul Verhoeven- ****
Friday the 13th- Marcus Nispel- *** ½
RoboCop 3- Fred Dekker- ***
Freddy Vs Jason- Ronny Yu- ***
RoboCop 2- Irvin Kershner- ****
Killer Klowns from Outer Space- Stephen Chiodo- *** ½
Survival of the Dead- George A. Romero- *** ½
L.A. Law: The Movie- Michael Schultz- *** ½
Wolf Creek- Greg McLean- ****
Home Before Midnight- Pete Walker- ****
Wolf Creek 2- Greg McLean- *** ½
Final Terror- Andrew Davis- **
Bloody Birthday- Ed Hunt- *** ½
Lake Placid- Steve Miner- ****
Eyes of a Stranger- Ken Wiederhorn- *** ½
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires- Roy Ward Baker- ** ½
Deadly Eyes- Robert Clouse- *** ½
I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer- Sylvain White- ** ½
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer- Danny Cannon- *** ½
I Know What You Did Last Summer- Jim Gillespie- ****
Slaughter High- Mark Ezra, George Dugdale, Peter Litten- ***
Hatchet III- BJ McDonnell- ****
Night of the Comet- Thom Eberhardt – ****
Chopping Mall- Jim Wynorski- *** ½
La Bamba- Luis Valdez- *****
Curtains- Richard Ciupka- ***
The Buddy Holly Story- Steve Rash- ****
The Faculty- Robert Rodriguez- ****
Invasion of the Body Snatchers- Don Siegel- ****
The Invasion- Oliver Hirschbiegel- ** ½
Malevolence- Stevan Mena- ****
The Omega Man- Boris Sagal- *** ½
Hostel- Eli Roth- ****
Hostel: Part II- Eli Roth- *** ½
Contamination- Luigi Cozzi- **
Amazing Spider-Man 2- Marc Webb- ***
Hell of the Living Dead- Bruno Mattei- ***
Rats: Night of Terror- Bruno Mattei- ***
Graduation Day- Herb Freed- ***
Midnight Movie- Jack Messitt- *** ½
Massage Parlor Murders- Chester Fox & Alex Stevens- ***
Texas Chainsaw Massacre- Tobe Hooper- *****
Halloween- Rob Zombie- ****
Caged Women- Leandro Lucchetti- ***
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers: Producers Cut- Joe Chappelle- *** ½
Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later- Steve Miner- ****
Stagefright- Michele Soavi- *** ½
Violence in a Women’s Prison- Bruno Mattei- ***
Exorcist II: The Heretic- John Boorman- ** ½
Exorcist III- William Peter Blatty- *** ½
Halloween 5- Dominique Othenin-Girard- ****
People Under the Stairs- Wes Craven- ****
The Demons- Jesùs Franco- ***
National Lampoon’s Vacation- Harold Ramis- ****
Exorcist: The Beginning- Renny Harlin- **
Trick ‘r Treat- Michael Dougherty- *** ½
Flesheater- S. William Hinzman- ***
When a Stranger Calls Back- Fred Walton- *** ½
Violation of Claudia- William Lustig- ***
Count Dracula- Jesùs Franco- ***
Hot Honey- William Lustig- ***
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers- Dwight Little- *** ½
The First Power- Robert Resnikoff- *** ½
House on Haunted Hill- William Castle- *** ½
To All a Goodnight- David Hess- ***
Dr. Phibes Rises Again- Robert Fuest- ** ½
Last Man on Earth- Ubaldo B. Ragona, Sidney Salkow- *** ½
See No Evil 2- Jen & Sylvia Soska- ***
Tomb of Ligeia- Roger Corman- ***
Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort- Valeri Milev- ***
Return of the Fly- Edward L. Bernds- ***
Comedy of Terrors- Jacques Tourneur- *** ½
Leprechaun 3- Brian Trenchard-Smith- *** ½
Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings- Declan O’Brien- ***
Leprechaun 4: In Space- Brian Trenchard-Smith- ** ½
Town That Dreaded Sundown- Alfonso Gomez-Rejon- ** ½
Dumb and Dumber- Peter Farrelly- ****
Cabin Fever- Eli Roth- ****
Ghostbusters- Ivan Reitman- ****
Ghostbusters II- Ivan Reitman- ****
Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood- Steven Ayromlooi- * ½
My Cousin Vinny- Jonathan Lynn- **** ½
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot- Roger Spottiswoode- ***
Shocker- Wes Craven- ** ½
Die Hard- John McTiernan- ****
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan- Rob Hedden- *** ½
Leprechaun- Mark Jones- ***
Mondo Cannibal- Bruno Mattei- ** ½
Leprechaun 2- Rodman Flender- ***
Leprechaun in the Hood- Rob Spera- ** ½
Silent Night, Deadly Night- Charles E. Sellier, Jr- ****
Cannibal Holocaust- Ruggero Deodato- ****
The Tingler- William Castle- ** ½
Borat- Larry Charles- **** ½
Mountain of the Cannibal God- Sergio Martino- ** ½
Demons- ****
House By the Cemetery- Lucio Fulci- ****
Planes, Trains and Automobiles- John Hughes- **** ½
Zombie 3- Lucio Fulci, Bruno Mattei- ***
Escape from the Bronx- Enzo G. Castellari- **
Silent Night- Steven C. Miller- ***
Christmas Vacation- Jeremiah S. Chechik- *** ½
Home Alone- Chris Columbus- ****
Weekend At Bernie’s- Ted Kotcheff- ***
Christmas Evil- Lewis Jackson- *** ½
Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals- Joe D’Amato- ** ½
Pretty in Pink- Howard Deutch- ****
Short Circuit 2- Kenneth Johnson- ** ½
Kindergarten Cop- Ivan Reitman- *** ½
Hiding Out- Bob Giraldi- ** ½
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York- Chris Columbus- *** ½
Uncle Buck- John Hughes- ****
Student Bodies- Mickey Rose- ***
The Warriors- Walter Hill- ****
St. Elmo’s Fire- Joel Schumacher- ***
Sixteen Candles- John Hughes- ****
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off- John Hughes- ****
Silent Night, Bloody Night- Theodore Gershuny- ** ½
When a Stranger Calls- Fred Walton- ****
From the Hip- Bob Clark- ** ½
The Delta Force-Menahem Golan- *** ½
Weird Science- John Hughes- *** ½
Desperado- Robert Rodriguez- ****
The Initiation- Larry Stewart- ***
Class of 1999- Mark L. Lester- ****
Black Sabbath- Mario Bava- ****
A Christmas Carol- Edwin L. Marin- ****
Scrooge- Henry Edwards- ** ½
Last American Virgin- Boaz Davidson- *** ½
Motel Hell- Kevin Connor- ***
Some Kind of Wonderful- Howard Deutch- ****
The Toxic Avenger- Michael Herz & Lloyd Kaufman- ****
Avenging Force- Sam Firstenberg- *** ½
Mr. Majestyk- Richard Fleischer- ***
Armed and Dangerous- Mark L. Lester- ****

TV Shows (Home Video Only)

L.A. Law Season 1- *** ½
L.A. Law Season 2- ****
L.A. Law Season 3- ****
L.A. Law Season 4- ****
L.A. Law Season 5- ****
L.A. Law Season 6- *** ½
Greatest American Hero Season 1- ***
The Walking Dead Season 4- ****
24: Live Another Day- ****

9-Total Shows

250-Total Films

30s- 2
40s- 2
50s- 4
60s- 11
70s- 40
80s- 107
90s- 45
2000s- 38

First Time Views

73 (Film Only)

2-Films

Oswaldo de Oliveira
John Carpenter
Joe Dante
Jerry Paris
Jack Hill
Andrew Davis
Don Siegel
Robert Fuest
Roger Spottiswoode
William Castle
Chris Columbus
Fred Walton
Menahem Golan
Boaz Davidson
Howard Deutch
Lloyd Kaufman

3-Films

Kevin Tenney
Michael Winner
Joseph Zito
J. Lee Thompson
Dwight H. Little
Brian Trenchard-Smith
Eli Roth
Lucio Fulci
Ivan Reitman
Sam Firstenberg
Mark L. Lester

4-Films

Steve Miner
William Lustig

5-Films

Jean Rollin
Pete Walker
Wes Craven
John Hughes

6-Films

Roger Corman
Bruno Mattei

7-Films

Jesùs Franco

Christmas Evil (1980) Review

Posted in Christmas Evil with tags , , on December 18, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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CHRISTMAS EVIL (YOU BETTER WATCH OUT)

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- He’ll Sleigh You

Release Date- November 1980

Running Time- 95-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Lewis Jackson

Starring- Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull

Released in 1980 You Better Watch Out, which also goes under such titles as Terror in Toyland and the more common title of Christmas Evil is a cult favorite and filmmaker John Waters has dubbed this the best Christmas film. Despite the cult following some of the backlash it sometimes gets are from people expecting a slasher film, which this was marketed as and even the title Christmas Evil implies it. The trailer for the film has such lines as “this Christmas you better believe in Santa or he’ll sleigh you” and “the night he dropped in”. Christmas Evil does at times have a slasher like feel going for it, but its much more of a character study of a disturbed man who is losing his grip on reality. Writer/director Lewis Jackson came up with the concept for the film in the 70s, but it didn’t get made until 1980 and with the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween perhaps it slightly influenced certain aspects of Christmas Evil though Halloween and such films as Friday the 13th and Prom Night very much influenced the marketing. Christmas Evil is one of those films you can link to the slasher film, but its also one of those films that’s kind of a slasher, but at the same time isn’t. As mentioned some of the detractors of the film at the time of the release and even in the years following are due to some expecting a straight up slasher. Even the home video releases for Christmas Evil very much play up to the slasher aspect of the film. While there are a few death scenes with a killer in a Santa suit (more on that later), Christmas Evil is nothing like say Silent Night, Deadly Night. If anything its more like William Lustig’s Maniac only without the graphic gore. While I would list Maniac as a slasher film so perhaps that’s not the best comparison, but both films are a character study though if anything maybe Christmas Evil can sort of be compared to something like the Town That Dreaded Sundown in regards to it has a number of slasher aspects and the Town That Dreaded Sundown served as a clear influence of Friday the 13th Part 2, but it still toes the line of being a slasher and even a film like the Stepfather (1987) would also make a good comparison since Christmas Evil in regards to being more of a thriller with a little slasher thrown in.

What I find so interesting and I also mentioned this is my review for the 1980 slasher film To All a Goodnight is both films feature a killer dressed in a Santa outfit and no one seemed to care, but 4-years later in 1984 Silent Night, Deadly Night would also have a killer dressed as Santa and would cause such outrage and even protests it only had a 2-week theatrical run and would later find an audience on home video. Silent Night, Deadly Night actually opened against A Nightmare on Elm Street and out grossed it very slightly opening weekend, but all went downhill after that due to the protesters and even the film Don’t Open Till Christmas had scenes with a killer Santa and was also released in 1984. The trailer for Christmas Evil as mentioned does play up to slasher conventions with a killer in a Santa outfit, but again nobody seemed to care and Christmas Evil was left alone with no outrage.

As a child Harry Stadling loved Christmas and looked forward to Santa coming every year, but when he learns Santa isn’t real and sees his mother and father (who is dressed as Santa) getting busy, for the rest of his life the now adult Harry (Maggart) tries to keep the Christmas spirit alive and even spies on children making a naughty and nice list; Harry ends up taking his obsession with Christmas and Santa too far as he begins to lose his grip on reality.

Christmas Evil was written and directed by Lewis Jackson and the script is actually fairly strong with interesting characters and the family drama really works well and adds a bit of depth. Harry is quite an interesting character as he isn’t a bad person and just wants to keep the Christmas spirit alive, but he’s clearly unhinged and as the film goes on Harry begins to lose his grasp more and more on reality. There’s also a lot of dark comedy, which fits in quite well with the offbeat nature of the film. While the writing is strong what really elevates Christmas Evil is the direction by Lewis Jackson and this would also be his last picture. From the very start, Jackson establishes a tone that’s quite odd and offbeat, which adds a layer of eerie atmosphere throughout the picture. The fact Harry spies on children and has a naughty and nice book even if he means no harm by it does give the picture a perverse feel regardless if that was Jackson’s intentions or not, but the way Harry watches the children adds this really eerie and strange feel to the film. The pace of the film is quite strong, but not exciting either as Christmas Evil is by no means a body count film despite a decent batch of killings in the 2nd half. Lewis Jackson makes a film that’s a character study and while those looking for a slasher film will be disappointed, but for those who get it you’ll appreciate what Jackson was going for. The tone of the film does kind of feel like a slasher and the 2nd half of the film does offer up slasher style killings, which were quite effective and I think the buildup works very well, but the only issue is Christmas Evil doesn’t quite have an identity at times, but regardless Lewis Jackson makes a terrific film that very much stands out in an era dominated by the stalk and slash film.

Brandon Maggart who is the father of singer Fiona Apple delivers a truly wonderful performance and he’s in almost every scene and is very much able to carry the picture. I really like films where the main character in this case Harry might do some bad things such as murder, but he isn’t really a villain either. He’s a person that just becomes more and more unhinged and loses sight of wrong and right. It’s a very interesting character study and Brandon Maggart is quite excellent.

As mentioned John Waters has dubbed this the best Christmas film and a few people have echoed that statement. As enjoyable as I found Christmas Evil I personally wouldn’t rate it as one of the best Christmas themed films and just sticking with the horror genre in no way could I ever rate this film above the original Black Christmas. I’d also give the edge to Silent Night, Deadly Night as well, but make no mistake Christmas Evil is still a terrific film and its essential viewing during the Christmas season.

Christmas Evil was released on a blu-ray/DVD combo pack on November 18th, 2014 from Vinegar Syndrome. Christmas Evil has a brand new 4k scan from the original negative and results are nothing short of spectacular. Vinegar Syndrome in my opinion along with Synapse are by far the best two companies when it comes to horror and cult cinema in terms of quality. The releases from Vinegar Syndrome are more often than not seldom seen films and while Graduation Day and Christmas Evil are cult favorites I’m not sure if their popularity warrant the work Vinegar Syndrome puts into them, but this is why they’re a truly great company. Christmas Evil is a low budget film and the blu-ray comes 34-years after its original release so you can’t expect perfection, but the HD video is terrific and hands down one of the best video presentations of an 80s horror picture. The audio is also quite strong and this is a very pleasing release. The extra features are a mix from past DVD releases from Troma and Synapse. The DVD version is also quite strong, but the blu-ray shines above it. Christmas Evil easily rates as one of the best blu-ray releases of 2014.

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Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) Review

Posted in Home Alone 2 with tags , on December 15, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- He’s Up Past His Bedtime in the City That Never Sleeps.

Release Date- November 20th, 1992

Running Time- 120-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- John Hughes

Director- Chris Columbus

Starring- Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard and Brenda Fricker

In 1990 when Home Alone was released it became a massive success pulling in 285-million dollars in the US and 476-million worldwide and was the highest grossing film of 1990 and was also by far the biggest success in the career of the legendary John Hughes. Not only was Home Alone a massive success in terms of the money it made, but it also became a huge part of pop culture. In 1992 Home Alone 2: Lost in New York was released and while the box office numbers dropped, but Home Alone 2 still was a major success making 173-million dollars in the US and 358-million dollars worldwide and was the 2nd highest grossing film of 1992 (Aladdin was the top grossing film). When it comes to sequels most aren’t nearly as good as the original with a few exceptions and while Home Alone 2 was an enjoyable film it wasn’t nearly as excellent as the original. As I’ve mentioned in other John Hughes productions he’s my film idol, but Home Alone 2 would in my opinion be one of his weaker films, but even a weaker John Hughes film is still better than the bulk of films by other writers. I think the biggest problem here is there really isn’t a reason for this film outside of existing simply because it could due to the success of the original film. In general even if really good most sequels really aren’t needed, but certain genres such as action and horror films due to their setup can generally work better with sequels since they both have a simple formula, but films such as Home Alone 2 in my opinion generally feel a little more forced.

On a trip to Florida for Christmas the McCallister family is again late getting to the airport only this time they don’t forget Kevin (Culkin) however when rushing to board their plane Kevin gets separated and ends up on a plane to New York. Meanwhile during a prison riot Harry (Pesci) and Marv ( Stern) escape from prison and also are in New York and have another showdown with Kevin.

John Hughes like any writer has a style, but each script by Hughes never felt like a rehash even though you know a John Hughes film when you see one. Hughes was extremely active in the 80s and even into the 90s before basically retiring. John Hughes could have 3 films produced a yearly, but quality never dropped, which is quite rare for someone as active as John Hughes and all his films follow the same structure even if as mentioned they never felt like a rehash and had their own identity. Home Alone 2 was released 2-years after the original, but the film itself is set a year after the original. The script by John Hughes while well written does however feel like a rehash of the first film and if anything its pretty much a rewrite and the John Hughes formula was perhaps wearing a bit thin. In the 90s, Hughes started to go in a different direction focusing more on family themed films and even though Hughes is my film idol I wasn’t really the target audience anymore. While John Hughes still had some quality films in the 90s perhaps the change of times and heavy workload caught up to him. Characters are solid, but don’t quite make the same impact as they did in past John Hughes films. There’s plenty of amusing bits as well as the typical heartfelt moments, but as states it feels too much like the original, which lessen their impact. With all that said though the script by Hughes is still quite entertaining and it is a solid script even if not on par with the typical John Hughes production.

Director Chris Columbus returns for the sequel and while he makes a fun film, but like how the script rehashes the original the direction by Columbus also very much follows the original. Running at 120-minutes Home Alone 2 is a bit on the long side and the middle sections is where the pace can get a bit sluggish. Chris Columbus made a terrific film with the original, but Home Alone 2 is bogged down by offering nothing new. There are plenty of funny moments, but as a whole Home Alone 2 isn’t quite as fun as the first film as scenes from the original are more or less re-staged. While my review might sound negative, Columbus does craft an enjoyable film and with a bit of editing to tighten the pace Home Alone 2 would have been better served.

The cast for Home Alone 2 is quite solid with appearances by Tim Curry, Rob Schneider, Eddie Bracken and a cameo by Ally Sheedy. Macaulay Culkin is fun to watch even if his scenes are basically the same as the original. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are again a blast to watch.

Overall Home Alone 2 is a fun film, but it just follows the original film far too closely and it just lessens the impact. However its still an enjoyable and funny movie, but plays it far too safe. This wouldn’t be the end of the series as John Hughes would write a 3rd film, which was a box office flop and it still wouldn’t end there as there would be two more films only this time without John Hughes and were made for TV movies.

Home Alone (1990) Review

Posted in Home Alone with tags , , , , on December 10, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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HOME ALONE

**** Out of 5

Tagline- A Family Comedy Without the Family.

Release Date- November 16th, 1990

Running Time- 103-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- John Hughes

Director- Chris Columbus

Starring- Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Robert Blossom with John Candy and Catherine O’Hara

Released in 1990 Home Alone would become one of the most popular comedies of the 90s and spawn sequels and even video games. I remember seeing Home Alone when it was released theatrically and I was 11-years old at the time and while a couple of years older than the main character it was still something I could connect with and I also even remember having the video games as well. As a kid Home Alone was easily one of my favorite comedies and I think every child kind of had that fantasy of being alone and battling monsters or this case burglars. Home Alone may not be as epic as it was in 1990, but its a film that actually stands the test of time and still makes for a really fun time no matter how old you are.

The McCallister family are heading to France over Chrustmas vacation and with a late start in the morning they rush to the airport and everything goes smoothly that is until they realize they forgot one minor detail. 8-year old Kevin (Culkin). Now home alone Kevin must defend his house from two bungling thieves.

The screenplay was written by John Hughes and at this stage of his career he kept all the trademarks that helped make him such a great writer, but he was also going in a different direction as well. While he’s best known for his teen driven films such as Sixteen Candles, the Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off all, which he also directed, but starting with Plains, Trains & Automobiles he began to move away from teen films and by the 90s he was writing more family themed films. Uncle Buck in 1989 can also be seen as the transition to family themed comedies, but Home Alone is the one that really kicked it off. The script by Hughes is terrific and heartfelt and nobody can write characters like John Hughes. What makes the characters in a John Hughes film so great is they feel like real people. They aren’t perfect and are flawed, which makes them so believable. A lot of films where a child is the main character might be great for children, but can be torture for adults, but no matter how old you are Home Alone can still be enjoyable as you’re bound to find one character to relate to. Sure the script can be silly at times, but Hughes knew how to balance silly from absurd where its too far over the top. In my opinion while Hughes would still write some solid films in the 90s such as Dutch and Career Opportunities, but times were changing and with the emergence of writer/directors like Kevin Smith the new era was upon us and Hughes would stick with family friendly films for the most part with Dennis the Menace and 101 Dalmatians and by the late 90s would basically retire with only a couple of credits here and there. While certain themes may have changed Home Alone has everything that made John Hughes such an iconic writer. Characters are great and there’s always that lesson learned by the characters in the end. Another thing Hughes was masterful at was mixing comedy and drama so well and that’s very much on display here as Home Alone is both funny and touching.

Home Alone was directed by Chris Columbus who started out writing such films as Gremlins and the Goonies and made his directorial debut in 1987 with Adventures in Babysitting. Columbus also directed the Robin Williams classic Mrs. Doubtfire and would later go into direct two Harry Potter films (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). As director Chris Columbus delivers a well paced and fun film that very much captures the spirit of the screenplay by John Hughes. Columbus gives the film a
natural flow and even the more over the top scenes fit in perfectly and work well where it doesn’t seem silly. The final act is quite hysterical and even all these years later I probably laughed just as much as when I was a child.

The cast is excellent and in general children in films tend to get on my nerves even when I was a child. But Macaulay Culkin is actually quite terrific and even though he was very young at the time he does a great job in carrying the film. Joe Pesci as Harry and Daniel Stern as Marv the bonehead thieves are a laugh riot and for me at least Home Alone works best when they’re onscreen as these are two truly great actors that aren’t afraid to be silly and really sell the final act. And the scene when Kevin puts the tarantula on Marv’s face and that scream he lets out puts me in tears laughing so hard. John Candy one of the truly great actors of his time has a bit, but highly memorable role and since Candy’s passing in 1994 comedy hasn’t been the same.

Overall Home Alone is a wonderfully funny and heartfelt film that only John Hughes could write. In my opinion Home Alone is essential christmas viewing or should I say simply essential viewing anytime of the year.

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Christmas Vacation (1989) Review

Posted in Christmas Vacation with tags , , on December 8, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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CHRISTMAS VACATION

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Yule Crack Up!

Release Date- December 1st, 1989

Running Time- 97-Minutes

Rating- PG-13

Screenplay- John Hughes

Director- Jeremiah S. Chechik

Starring- Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, Doris Roberts and Randy Quaid

Released in 1989 Christmas Vacation is the 3rd part of the popular National Lampoon’s Vacation series. By many fans of the Vacation franchise this one is considered the best and the IMDb rating comes in at a solid 7.5 just edging out the original’s 7.4. As much as I enjoyed Christmas Vacation I can’t really agree with the majority on this being the best of the series, but regardless it is still a solid and very entertaining film and is very much classic John Hughes. In some ways with the 80s ending the classic era of John Hughes ended as even at this time he was starting to move away from teen films and started to focus more on adults or adult issues and by the 90s Hughes would begin to write much more family themed comedies.

After taking a trip to Wally World than Europe the Griswold family stays home for Christmas, but are joined by their families including Cousin Eddie (Quaid). And just like how the Griswold’s vacations turn into chaos so does their Christmas gathering as whatever can go wrong often does.

The screenplay by John Hughes is well written with some truly memorable characters. In the good portion of the films Hughes wrote they all have a certain theme and you know a John Hughes film when you are one, but yet despite certain themes these films never seemed like a rehash and have their own identity, which just goes to show how great of a writer John Hughes was since other filmmakers that use a lot of the same themes it becomes tiresome and feels like the same exact script being written over and over again, but Hughes 99% of the time always made his trademarks feel fresh each time out. The screenplay for Christmas Vacation is excellent, but than again its John Hughes so its expected. The script is quite funny with some of John’s best dialogue as mentioned the characters are strong and while like many of the scripts by John Hughes it can be a little over the top, but yet it works well.

Christmas Vacation marked the directorial debut for Jeremiah S. Chechik who would go onto direct such films as Benny and Joon and Diabolique and Chechik has also directed various TV shows including the Bronx Is Burning, Gossip Girl, Chuck and Burn Notice. Sometimes filmmakers make their best film with their debut since they might take chances they normally wouldn’t with more experience. However there are also times where while the film can be well made and even a good film there might be that little something missing and for me that describes Christmas Vacation. Jeremiah S. Chechik delivers a well made and generally well paced film, but it just lacks that extra something that keeps it a good film. There are some really hysterical moments, but the production just feels a little restrained and perhaps that could be due to the PG-13 rating, but for me this one really doesn’t differ from the previous two and while the original was R-rated, European Vacation was also PG-13. While Chechik makes a fun film that’s high on the re-watch factor, but I think a director with a little more experience may have gotten a little more like even perhaps John Hughes. Regardless, Chechik delivers an entertaining film that’s essential christmas time viewing.

Overall Christmas Vacation is a highly entertaining film with a terrific cast and top notch writing from Hughes with no shortage of quotable dialogue. While I cannot rate this as highly as many seem to, but I still found the film a lot of fun. As mentioned perhaps a more seasoned director could have gotten a bit more, but what we do get is good enough.

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